'Ideal' tour will define Irish World Cup side – Dallaglio
FORMER England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes Ireland's summer tour to Argentina is a perfect build-up to next year's World Cup in comparison to England's gruelling three-Test trip to New Zealand.
The Six Nations top two came out of the spring with just points difference between them and in good shape as the build-up to the global tournament, which England host, gathers pace.
The former Wasps No 8 is involved in the organisation of the World Cup having played his part in the bidding process and is excited by the potential of the English team, but he recognises that Ireland are also building nicely.
"Both teams had a successful campaign, Ireland ran out deserved winners – even though they lost to England they had more of an attacking threat in certain games and they won the tournament with that attacking philosophy," the 41-year-old 2003 World Cup winner said.
"They're going through a bit of an evolution, a new coach who has proven how astute a choice he was and is getting the best out of that group of players.
"That squad is changing all the time – I'm sure the summer tour to Argentina will define some of the players who will be involved in next year's World Cup.
"There's still time to force your way into the equation and Ireland probably have an ideal tour to Argentina which will provide a tough opposition and a good environment to examine those players."
One problem Schmidt faces is replacing Brian O'Driscoll, whose career will come to an end either tomorrow or in two weeks' time, depending on Leinster's results.
As well as facing O'Driscoll at club and international level, Dallaglio also went on two Lions tours with the legendary centre and he paid a fulsome tribute.
"He's one of the greats, right up there with some of the greatest players to play the game. His results individually and for the teams that he represented speak for themselves," he said.
"We got on very well, he was one of the lads. We both sort of crossed over the game when it was going from one game to the fully professional game it is now, and we enjoyed both sides of it.
"He's a born winner – individually he had the skill to do things that not many players did and his impact on teams both as a player, a captain and a person have been immeasurable.
"He's had success with Leinster, Ireland, any team he's been involved in, so I wish him well.
"I'm sure he was the driving force and a motivation behind Ireland securing the championship in his last outing.
"It will be a big challenge for him, retirement, because it's not easy for any player to breathe the rarefied air of reality having worked so hard. I'm sure he'll enjoy that time – his body will anyway."
The former England No 8 was in Limerick yesterday to attend the European Sport Tourism Summit at Thomond Park.
He is centrally involved in England's World Cup and has experience of the effort needed to bring the tournament to a country and stage it there.
And he believes that Ireland's prospective bid for the 2023 tournament could be a success if all stakeholders buy in.
"I've been lucky to have been involved in a number of World Cups in different ways and, having been in New Zealand, it's a country of a four million people as well," he said.
"Even in England, it's such a big event that you have to reach out to the wider structures and many of our venues that we've selected for the Rugby World Cup are football venues.
"I'm sure that the possibilities are there, but it requires a lot of people to come together and what we've found in England is that it's not up to rugby to deliver on its own. They've collaborated with football clubs, the Premier League, government and it really is a huge team effort.
"In terms of any bid that Ireland would put together, they would need to have the same collaboration with the GAA, football, everyone, the Irish government.
"If you get that, then you put your bid together, you go up against the competition and you see where that takes you. I'm sure it would be a very popular destination."